Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Empowerment Through Art

YWCA’s 3rd Annual SAAM Art Exhibit Allows Survivors to Take Back Their Voice 

 By: Emily Ostrowski

 In recognition of April as Sexual Assault Awareness Month, YWCA held several events throughout the month in order to raise awareness about sexual violence, and encourage prevention techniques in our community. YWCA is well aware our community is far from immune to sexual violence. According to Washington Coalition of Sexual Assault Programs, one out of every three Washingtonian women will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime.
Corey Jewell-Jenson

 At the beginning of the month, YWCA hosted speaker Cory Jewell-Jensen, Co-Director of the Center for Behavioral Intervention, and a leading expert on adult sex offenders having worked with them for over 28 years. She spoke to a packed room of concerned citizens and addressed myths surrounding sexual abuse, as well as what parents and communities can do to protect their children. On April 27th Yoga Calm partnered with YWCA to offer a free yoga session to mothers and teens. 

The month was rounded out On April 29th, when YWCA of Clark County hosted its 3rd annual Sexual Assault Awareness Month Art Reception.. The goal of the exhibit is to “empower survivors and allies to raise their voices and create community awareness around sexual assault.”

 The art show was open to all, and 46 participants expressed themselves in a variety of different medium including paintings, drawings, collages, sculpture and poems. Additionally, over 50 attendees were at the event, and were able to enjoy light refreshments while viewing the artwork and voting on their three favorite pieces. Both the number of participants as well as attendees were significantly higher than our two previous art shows.
"Fight Like a Girl"

 While much of the artwork was submitted anonymously, some artists were on hand at the reception, and open to speaking about their pieces. Rubyna Ali submitted her poem, “Strike Back,” which she presented as a spoken word piece, played on loop on her laptop. Rubyna developed an interest in poetry at age 13, and was particularly drawn to spoken word poetry, describing it as “finding your own kind of advocacy through voice.“ She’s performed her work before at school assemblies, and this was her first time participating in YWCA’s art show after being encouraged to enter by a former art teacher. She enjoyed the experience saying, “I think it’s really great for a community to come together through art and a common purpose.”

 Another artist who also participated in last year’s show, Amy Meyer, submitted her drawing “Fearless,” which showed a woman in a bright teal dress running against a coral backdrop. Meyer explained her motivation by noting that the official color for sexual assault awareness is teal, and by using the complementary color (the color that is opposite in hue) as the backdrop it represents a breaking away from the opposition, or the shadows of abuse, and coming forward. She was later awarded 2nd place for her work.

 YWCA Sexual Assault Advocate Shari Lachin, emphasized the importance of expression through art for victims and survivors of sexual abuse:

 “Art provides survivors a space to express their emotions around this horrendous crime that has been done to them with a positive and cathartic lens. Survivors can express themselves in a safe space that allows them to have control over the pace and response their healing is taking. It’s more than just creating the piece itself but also the process the artist goes through creating their artwork. The thought and emotion that goes behind creating their piece can be an empowering expression of their feelings.” She continued, “Sometimes survivors of sexual assault have to tell and repeat their experience multiple times which can be re-victimizing and triggering. Art is an opportunity to express yourself and feelings on your own terms, which is empowering for survivors. It’s empowering to have control over your story how you would like it conveyed.”

"Consumed Torso"

 We appreciate every artist who participated this year, and are pleased to announce the winners as:

1st Place: Michelle Atkin: Fight Like a Girl
2nd Place: Amy Meyer: Fearless
3rd Place: Jennifer Gilmore Consumed Torso

 More photos from the art show will be available on Facebook later this month.

Meet Irma Magana

By Emily Ostrowski

Irma Magana has served YWCA Clark County as a bilingual advocate for the Sexual Assault Program for the past seven years, and has an undeniable enthusiasm for the work she does. “Everything I do I enjoy, even if sometimes it’s a little scary,” she says.

As a bilingual advocate, Irma works with Spanish speaking victims and survivors of sexual and
Irma Magana
domestic abuse. She’s there at every stage of the process, from helping them seek medical attention and offering emotional support to navigating the legal system throughout a case if they go to trial. Irma also works to help women obtain a U Visa, which gives victims of certain crimes, like sexual assault, temporary legal status and work eligibility for up to four years. Recently, Irma spoke at the 10th Annual Western Regional International Health Conference, hosted by the OHSU Global Health Center Student Interest Group, about how the medical community can better serve victims and survivors of sexual assault.

Another of Irma’s responsibilities is co-facilitator of the Latina Support Group with Beatriz Velasquez, bilingual advocate in the SafeChoice Program. The group, which started over 10 years ago, meets every Thursday from 12 to 2pm, is free and provides childcare. Initially, there were just one or two people meeting in an office, but the group has since grown and now Irma estimates that roughly 15-20 women attend each week. Irma notes that Latina women are often more hesitant to report abuse, and can isolate themselves from seeking out help, which is part of the reason she sees this support group as so important.

“The more we talk about these issues, the more we let them know that this is a safe place, where they can talk in their own language, and see that we are very competent in understanding their struggles, the less isolated they become.” She continues, “Families get broken by domestic and sexual abuse. Victims lose their family, their friends, their income. Everything falls apart, and they need someone to talk to, someone who is going to be supportive, to help them come back into their normal lives.”

Irma is incredibly proud of the work she’s done in the group and the lives she’s affected. One story in particular stays with her as a reminder of all the good the group can provide. Three years ago a mother and daughter from Guatemala came to YWCA for help dealing with both sexual and domestic abuse within their family. The family was torn apart, but they kept coming to meetings. The case eventually went to trial and the assailant was put in jail for 16 years. The daughter continued her education, and is now studying to become a nurse. The mother continues to attend group, and has now gained her work permit and is on the path to citizenship. Both still keep in regular contact with Irma, even though the case has closed, and she sees these relationships as her job’s greatest reward.

“That for me is the pay. I love seeing those families who know and appreciate everything that we’re doing for them. It makes me feel really good about the work I do.”

May 2013 Y's Words

“YWCA Clark County saved my life”, I recently overhead a volunteer say. Is there a better compliment?  We kicked off National Volunteer Appreciation Week on April 22nd.  Thank you to all our volunteers who help change lives and save lives on a daily basis.

April was Sexual Assault Awareness month and we are very proud of the amazing and powerful events we put on, including our 3rd annual Sexual Assault Awareness Month Art Exhibit. We are thrilled to announce that this year’s show attracted more participants and attendees than the previous two years, and want to thank everyone who made the show such a success!

YWCA continues to be a fierce advocate for survivors of sexual abuse, as well as a strong believer in diversity. We have a featured interview with Irma Magana, Bilingual Advocate for the Sexual Assault Program where she discusses the weekly Latina Support Group she co-facilitates for victims and survivors of sexual and domestic abuse.

In April we were also pleased to honor three young women with Young Women of Achievement scholarships. Congratulations to Sarah Case, Kate Orsi, and Karishma Patel for being outstanding examples of leadership, academic achievement, and community involvement!

Our Spring Appeal is well underway, with already over $13,000 raised through generous contributions. We’re hoping for a big push through the rest of the month, as all donations made before June 30th will go to assist children and families participating in YWCA’s SafeChoice Domestic Violence Program. Please give what you can to help heal families and protect the children of Clark County.

Lastly, we look forward to June 18th when YWCA will host the 3rd Annual Community Celebration. Please join us this year and celebrate the differences between generations, and the diversity each generation brings to our community.

Strong Alone.  Fearless Together.

2013 Young Women of Achievement

In 1989, YWCA Clark County created an awards program to recognize young women for their volunteer community service and leadership. Since then, we have honored close to 230 students from Clark County high schools for their efforts to build a stronger, healthier and more vibrant community. This year, we are proud to recognize three more amazing women as Young Women of Achievement.

The process for receiving a Young Woman of Achievement scholarship is competitive. Applicants must demonstrate outstanding achievement in volunteer and school leadership roles, community involvement, commitment to YWCA’s mission, and must serve as a role model for their peers. Applications are reviewed by a selection committee, who this year selected six young women to be interviewed. Interviewees answer questions about their leadership, community service and future academic plans. From this, three young women are awarded the Young Women of Achievement designation.

Sarah Case from Columbia River High School received the YWCA Scholarship Award. Sarah served the community through the National Honor Society, Key Club, Oregon Food Bank and more. In 2012 she embarked on a service trip to Costa Rica. This journey inspired Sarah to pursue even more opportunities to support the local community and to broaden her international service. Since that time, she has served as LINK crew member, volunteered for the Clark County Food Bank and joined the Interact Club, a service club dedicated to eradicating polio. Sarah is looking forward to traveling to Haiti this Spring for another service trip.

Kate Orsi from Skyview High School received the Donna Roberge Scholarship Award. Kate is active in her school and community, serving as president of the National Red Cross Club, secretary of the National Honor Society and secretary of the Women in Action Club. Kate also volunteers on a Teen-to-Teen peer support line each week. Kate realized that many of her peers were feeling trapped and overwhelmed, and they were unaware of the resources available to them. Inspired by this observation, she petitioned to have the teen support line information included on student identification cards, and was able to bring students in touch with resources available to them. Kate is continually inspired by positively influencing her community and her peers.

Karishma Patel from Mountain View High School received the Soroptimist International of Vancouver Scholarship Award. Karishma serves as an officer with her school’s chapter of the National Honor Society. She also volunteers at the Southwest Washington Medical Center’s Cardiovascular Observatory and works as an intern for SEH, a silicon manufacturing company. Karishma is an accomplished Musician, athlete, and dancer, and she serves as a choreographer for Bollywood dances at the Gujarti Samaj community center. Through the National Honor Society, Karishma conceived and executed an AP study materials book drive, opening up the joys and benefits of AP studies to all students, regardless of economic standing. Karishma hopes to attend medical school and continue empowering women and making a difference in her community.

Congratulations to these three impressive young women. Their outstanding academic achievement and commitment to the community through volunteerism and leadership demonstrate passion and dedication in alignment with YWCA’s mission. With strong leaders like Sarah, Kate and Karishma, our local and international communities are well supported in the elimination of racism, empowerment of women, and promotion of peace, justice, freedom and dignity for all.

Five Reasons to Give This Spring

By Claire Morgan

This year’s Spring Appeal is in full swing, and it is time to take advantage of this wonderful opportunity that will have a lasting impact for generations to come. All donations made before June 30th assist families and individuals participating in the SafeChoice Domestic Violence Program of YWCA. The Children’s Advocacy Program is just one of the many great services offered by SafeChoice, and is dedicated to helping families heal from difficult pasts and embrace hopeful futures. Listed here are five ways your donation will make a difference for those families engaged with this program.

Your donation will…

1. Improve Our Community

Last year in Clark County over 1,500 cases of domestic violence reported to the police, and over half of these cases involved children. These children are the future of our community. Your donation will help these children find solace and enrichment.

2. Help Youth Identify and Avoid Abuse

A child who learns to recognize the escalating signs of control and abuse is empowered to prevent and avoid that abuse in the future. When parents are able to model healthy relationships, children are able to learn from them and apply healthy models to their own relationships throughout their lives. Your donation will help our advocates teach children to recognize healthy relationships and develop strong families that contribute to and empower the entire community.

3. Break the Cycle Often

Children learn from and imitate the people around them. This can have a devastating impact on a child who has only been exposed to violence and abuse. He or she might be more likely to perpetuate or accept abuse. Our advocates work tirelessly to help parents and families break the cycle and learn healthy relationship and behavior patterns. Safety planning and parental education allow these children to recover, grow and flourish as strong members of the community.

4. Reduce the Effects of Violence

Studies show that the effects of violence last a lifetime. Children exposed to violence in the home have an increased rate of anxiety, fear and anger. They may also experience poor sleeping patterns and decreased verbal ability. This leads to poor performance in school and behavior problems with other children. From the first day that children come to the shelter, advocates begin working to counteract these effects so that these children can be healthy and happy.

5. Support a Program Unparalleled In Service and Reach

The SafeChoice Domestic Violence Program administrates the only domestic violence shelter in Clark County. With strong ties to the Washington State Coalition Against Domestic Violence, area homeless shelters, Portland shelters, and the police department, the program maintains a network of support for victims and survivors of domestic violence. In addition to helping people with their immediate needs, the program’s prevention efforts seek to improve the future of our families and our community.

Overall, your donation will be the change for hundreds of people and families seeking a future free of violence. As of Monday, May 20, $18,090 has been raised to support future generations. With 40 days left and $2,690 to go, we need your help to reach the $45,000 needed to fully fund the CAP program. Please give today.

You may be able to double your donations impact through an employee match program. Many employers support employees who donate to charitable organizations, and will match employees/retirees contribution dollars. Contact your company’s Human Resources Department to find out if your employer will match your tax-deductible gift, or view this partial list of match donor businesses to see if your employer is listed: Adidas, Bank of America, First Interstate Bank, , Gas Transmission Northwest, Georgia-Pacific Corporation, The Home Depot, Hewlett Packard, IBM Corporation, Intel, Key Bank, Macy’s, NIKE, Inc., NW Natural, Prudential, Starbucks, Stream International, Inc., Sterling Bank, Sun Microsystems, Tektronix, U.S. Bank, UPS, US West, VERITAS Software, Verizon and Wells Fargo.

The Immigration Debate: Focus on Protecting Families

By Natalie Wood

The United States is a nation of immigrants. Immigrants have been an essential part of American society since our country’s inception. According to the Census Bureau’s 2011 American Community Survey, there are currently more than 40.3 million immigrants in the United States, representing 13% of the total population. This number includes those who are considered citizens (approximately 18 million) and those who are not (approximately 22 million).

An estimated one-in-five children in the United States is the child of an immigrant. These immigrants and their children enrich our culture and contribute to our economic growth, making the United States one of the most diverse nations on the planet.

The current immigration debate covers a range of issues from border security to the economy, but does not always focus on how immigration policies and practices impact immigrant families, women, and children in terms of their social and economic status. Immigrant women may face unique situations, including domestic violence and being trafficked into the United States. These women are also more likely to experience poverty. In Washington State, female immigrant workers earned approximately $9,000 dollars less than male immigrant workers in 2011. In the same year, more than 19% of all immigrant families with children under eighteen lived below the poverty level in Washington State, compared to 12% of native families with children under eighteen.

While border security and the economic needs of our country are important aspects of the immigration debate, the discussion should not be limited to these two issues. Any discussion on immigration reform should include how to best protect the welfare of both documented and undocumented immigrant women, children and their families, including those who are victims of violence and trafficking.

YWCA’s history, both locally and nationally, is one of empowering and strengthening our communities. This includes every individual, regardless of documentation or citizenship status. We will continue to strive for the elimination of racism, the empowerment of women, and peace, justice, freedom and dignity for all. YWCA Clark County and YWCA USA both have policy statements on immigration.

“Remember, remember always, that all of us, and you and I especially, are descended from immigrants and revolutionists.”
― Franklin D. Roosevelt

Celebrate with Us

By: Claire Morgan

Please join us Tuesday, June 18 for the 3rd Annual Community Celebration. The Celebration will be held in YWCA’s Community Room, 3609 Main Street from 5:30–7:30pm. The theme of this year’s celebration is Generations, and we will be exploring the changes between the past and the present and the ways that differences between generations contribute to community and diversity. Mayor Tim Leavitt will speak, and there will be a performance by a local belly dancing group.

The Community Celebration also honors this year’s recipients of the Val Joshua Racial Justice Award and the Youth Social Justice Award, which are awarded by YWCA Clark County’s Social Change Program. Val Joshua worked tirelessly throughout her life for equality and dignity for all people. She served two terms on the board of YWCA and reached out to the community in a variety of ways to promote social change. In 1989 she became the first recipient of the Racial Justice Award, and it has been bestowed in her name every year since. Although Val passed away in December of last year, her legacy continues to serve as an inspiration to all who believe in equality and dignity for all people.

The Val Joshua Racial Justice Award and the Youth Social Justice Award are bestowed to those who demonstrate leadership in working to eliminate racism and promote peace, justice, freedom and dignity for all people. Recipients are leaders in civil rights and work to eliminate racism and exhibit a commitment to self-determined social change for all people. Community members between the ages of 14 and 20 are eligible for the Youth Social Justice Award, and those 18 and over are eligible for the Val Joshua Racial Justice Award. You may nominate yourself or someone else for this award by submitting a nomination form. Entries should be completed no later than May 23, 2013.

Michelle Hurdle-Bradford, the manager of the Social Change Program states, “The annual Community Celebration is an opportunity for us to recognize outstanding members of our community, bring community members of all ages together, meet new people, and learn about other cultures.” Don’t miss this exciting opportunity to celebrate our community. If you have any questions about the nomination process, please contact valjoshuanomination@ywcaclarkcounty.org. To RSVP, please email eventrsvp@ywcaclarkcounty.org.